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ELAR & ELDP Spring recap: Part 1

2019 has already proven to be a very busy year here at ELAR and ELDP! To keep you up to date with what we’ve been up to, here is Part 1 of our Spring round-up.

To kick off 2019, Mandana Seyfeddinipur visited UNESCO, Paris, in January to attend the celebration of the UN’s International Year of Indigenous Languages (IYIL2019).

The global launch event gathered a variety of attendees, including indigenous peoples, government officials, academics, media organisations and documentation institutions. The event was also an opportunity to address safeguarding, promoting and providing access to knowledge and information for indigenous language users. Find out more via our post covering the event.

ELAR and SOAS World Languages Institute also celebrated IYIL2019 and International Mother Language Day (21 February) with SOAS Language Fest. Staff, students and friends showcased their work on languages and visitors listened to flash talks throughout the day, learning about languages like Manchu, Tamil and Gikuyu.

Mandana Seyfeddinipur and Gema Zamora Fernandez gave introductions to ELAR and ELDP while visitors were invited to record their languages for SOAS We Talk, showing the diversity of languages spoken at SOAS. The full programme can be found on the event page.

In March, a team from the Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia (RILCA) at Mahidol University, Thailand, visited ELAR for key training in digitisation, data management and archiving. You can learn more about their visit with our blog post.

Vera Ferreira with the RILCA team (Buachut Watyam, Siripen Ungsitipoorporn, Kumaree Laparporn, Nattamon Rojanakul) and Mahidol trainees.
Vera Ferreira with the RILCA team (Buachut Watyam, Siripen Ungsitipoorporn, Kumaree Laparporn, Nattamon Rojanakul) and Mahidol trainees.

From 13 -19 May, Vera Ferreira, ELDP’s Archive Support and Development Officer, visited Thailand to work with the team. She reports:

The second major goal of the Newton Fund – Institutional Links project that ELAR is carrying out together with a team from Mahidol University in Thailand is capacity-building and local empowerment on data collection and archiving. Thus, I visited Mahidol University to work with the Thai team on the implementation of the local archive and to give a training on data collection and archiving.

During the first two days, a local installation of Mukurtu was set up, the layout was adapted to the needs of the future archive, the interface was translated into Thai and the data processing and archiving workflows defined in London in March were tested and improved. The Thai team also started working with the legacy materials, which were digitised in London between March and May.

During the last three days, I worked with members of the Thai team to give training on data collection and archiving to a group of 20 participants with very different backgrounds: community members, master and PhD students, IT members from the university and members of other archives. The training started with the basics of language documentation (more focused on the equipment and the recording of specific communicative events like oral art, procedurals, games and festivities). After that issues related to data processing and data management (file naming, file formats, data bundling, and metadata) were intensively approached. The last day was dedicated to archiving and the work with Mukurtu, which the participants found very intuitive and simple to use. The last session was also used to collect participants’ feedback on the system and on the layout that we will use for the Thai archive.

Digital archivist and researcher Buachut Watyam
Digital archivist and researcher Buachut Watyam

In March, Mandana joined former ELAR colleague Martha Tsutsui Billins for a one-day conference at Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia on endangered languages and linguistics in Asia. Martha presented her research on Southern Amami Oshima Honorifics while Mandana presented a keynote on 16 years of supporting endangered languages documentation.

On 4 April, Mandana traveled to New York to take part in a workshop at Columbia University with globally renowned critical theorist Gayatri Spivak. The workshop focused on NGOs and language skills, exploring how NGOs operate in-country without knowledge of local languages.

Mandana also gave a public lecture at New York University on April 5. Following an invite by Professor Chris Collins, Mandana’s talk focused on language use and fundamental multi-modality, and how speech and gesture create meaning.

To round off her NYC visit, Mandana also took part in a workshop on Iranian languages in the New York diaspora with linguist Don Stilo. This event was organised with Daniel Kaufman and the Endangered Languages Alliance.

We’ll be updating the ELAR blog with Part 2 of our Spring round-up as well as upcoming events – watch this space!

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